Bobcat Nation ready to roar at Saturday's championship game

astice@islandpacket.comDecember 1, 2011 

Richard Frazier, left, is pictured with his grandson Jaquan Campbell at the Bluffton High School football stadium Thursday afternoon. Campbell is a junior defensive back for the undefeated Bobcats and has played most of the season with a broken right wrist. Frazier, who's been thrilled with the throngs of Bluffton fans attending away games, is in charge of getting the spirit bus loaded for the trip to Clemson this Saturday for the Class 3-A State Championship game.

JONATHAN DYER/THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

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Matt Miller may not have invented the rally towel, but he has put one to good use at Bluffton High School football games this season.

What started with Miller swinging an extra T-shirt last season has grown into 1,400 white "swag rags" passed out to fans with the help of Bobcat cheerleaders.

Those swag rags will be flying in Clemson on Saturday when Bluffton faces South Pointe for the Class 3-A state title game.

Just as the Bobcats, who never had a winning season until last year, are now a team on the way to a championship game, so have the fans transformed from a few die-hards into an expanding Bobcat Nation.

More than 1,000 tickets to Saturday's game have been sold during school lunch this week, booster club president Amy Waddell said.

Two charter buses -- one for fans, one for students -- are at capacity with about 50 fans on each.

Seventy-five hotel rooms reserved in Clemson have sold out.

"At the game against AC Flora, we had more fans in stands than the home team from Columbia," Waddell said. "While our coaches were at the South Carolina High School League for a press conference, coaches from the University of South Carolina said they could not get over Bluffton's community support -- that was a real compliment."

Traditions that began last year during the team's first taste of winning have "snowballed," Miller said.

Those include "Victory Meals" after wins, when an area restaurant or a family feeds the team, coaches and parents -- about 120 people in all, Waddell said.

Robert Frazier, whose grandson Jaquan Campbell is No. 34, will be cooking today's meal at the high school at about 4 p.m. The meal is being served up after a 2 p.m. pep rally in the gym to which the public is invited.

Frazier also has been organizing the "spirit buses" that carry fans to away games.

"I grew up playing football in Bluffton and I've never seen such support from the community," he said.

Mayor Lisa Sulka, whose son Michael is a senior lineman, said relatives aren't the only ones who are rabid supporters.

"About 150 Sun City people show up to every home game, religiously," she said. "They don't have kids who go to the schools, yet the Bobcats have become their Friday night event."

At home games, sponsors and vendors have continued to multiply, Miller said.

He and other fans said coach Ken Cribb has spearheaded changes that have led to the "small college atmosphere" at the games. Those changes include painting "Bluffton" and "Bobcats" in the endzones. More improvements, including creating a better student section, are slated for the off-season, Miller said.

Cribb said he is proud of what Bluffton has done for the team.

"It takes a special place and community to really get behind the kids the way this place here has gotten behind us," Cribb said. "A lot of places talk the talk, but Bluffton walks the walk."

And proudly waves the swag rag.

Reporter Sam McDowell contributed to this article.

Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/BlufftonBlogIP.

Related content

  1. Bluffton's season to remember, Nov. 29, 2011
  2. Bobcats start to plan for unknown title game opponent, Nov. 27, 2011
  3. Stinging memory of loss to Myrtle Beach kept Bobcats focused, Nov. 18, 2011

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